We’re all aware of how sales of certain comics stray very far from expected fair market prices. Certain books will occasionally sell either for extremely more or far less than expected. When this happens, it can give pause to a collector, perhaps causing them to re-evaluate their expectations. This confusion usually lasts until enough subsequent sales allow a price trend to once again emerge. At this point, we see that a phenomenally high or low price for a particular book was an outlier.
In this post, I want to examine two relatively recent and notable outlier sales (one, on a copy of Fantastic Four #49; the other Incredible Hulk #181). I want to speculate the impact these two cases might have in determining subsequent values and individual sales of those respective books.
I’ll start with the most recent sale of a copy of Fantastic Four #49 in 9.8 grade.
This is a popular book in what is becoming an increasingly popular Marvel series. After a series of bad FOX movies, and the cancellation of their regular series at Marvel, Silver Age Fantastic Four began to be undervalued compared to other Silver Age Marvel titles.
When the Disney deal to buy up the rights to FOX properties began, and especially after it went through, this acted as a catalyst helping people realize that Marvel’s first family was still worth investing in.
Since the entire Lee-Kirby run on the FF is considered a classic, the series has no shortage of key issues. The Galactus trilogy, however, is still considered by many to be the high point of Silver Age FF story lines.
For this reason it was no surprise that Fantastic Four #48 began to break records as sale after sale went higher and higher. Issue #48 is the first appearance of both Galactus (in Cameo) and the Silver Surfer. That’s why it was so surprising that not issue #48 but Fantastic Four #49 in 9.8 sold on Heritage auction for $44,215.00 on February 18, 2016. Sure, this is the first cover appearance of the Surfer and the first full appearance of Galactus, but since when did a cover appearance warrant a rise in FMV to such a high degree?
The most recent sales of FF #48 in certified blue label 9.8 looks as follows:
12/13/2018 = $31,833.00 (ComicConnect).
06/13/2018 = $28,000.00 (ComicConnect).
02/24/2018 = $27, 500.00 (eBay).
So why did a copy of Fantastic Four #49 sell for 32% higher value than the FMV of what is obviously the more important book in the same grade!
Obviously what we have here is an outlier. In the case of FF #49, the answer to the riddle might be found in the fact that less 9.8 copies exist for FF #49. There are currently 2,029 copies of FF #49 on the CGC census. Of those there’s only one 9.8 copy. FF #48, by contrast, has 4,933 copies on the census and 42 copies are 9.8’s. Did this outlier sale affect the value of FF #49 in other grades? Not really. In lower grades, the value for issue #49 is still always trending at less than an equivalently graded issue #48. For example, FF #48 =$16,000.00 for 9.6, compared to $14,000.00 for FF #49 and this drops to $10, 500.00 for #48 in 9.4 with FF #49 having an average price of only $6,250.00 in that grade, etc. I predict that if more FF #49’s in 9.8 grade show up, the FMV will trend down in line with the values of the other grades on copies of FF #49.
A trickier case, by far, happened very recently with an Incredible Hulk #181 sale. Recently, Hulk #181 sold for an astounding $59, 000.00 in a January 23, 2019 ComicLink auction. To give an idea of how high this is, here’s a sampling of select sales from before this auction for 9.8 graded copies:
12/22/2018 = $29, 100.00 (eBay)
05/10/2018 = $21,510.00 (Heritage Auction)
03/30/2018 = $20, 999.99 (eBay)
02/22/2018 = $23,900.00 (Heritage Auction)
09/03/2017 = $23, 000.00 (eBay)
Prices were trending upwards, but the recent 59 K ComicLink auction is most definitely an outlier. Since there haven’t been any 9.8 sales since then, it’s hard to say what will happen. Will the new price actually stick? Well, I predict that the next few sales will be lower than $60, 000.00. Why? I say this because there are currently 11, 356 copies of Hulk #181 on the CGC census alone, with 127 in 9.8 grade. This is not a rare book.
So what’s the take away here?
Finding FMV for comics is tricky in and of itself. In general, any comic is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Occasionally, prices will spike disproportionately and we see outlier sales.
That’s when buyers are forced to evaluate and re-evaluate what they are willing to pay. If demand and hype are crazy enough, the higher price may stick. Usually, other factors, like supply and demand, in tandem with desirability, will make all the difference.
However, even very popular and highly desired books have a limit and some kind of consensus on what buyers will pay. That’s why it’s a bad idea to value any book on the merit of an outlier sale or even a series of recent high or low sales alone.
****Edit 02/09/2019: The original article mistakenly said the Hulk #181 auctioned on 01/23/2019 was sold at a Heritage Auction. It was, in fact, sold on ComicLink and the typo has been changed with the article corrected and updated to reflect that fact. Also, it should be noted as well that the outlier sale was from the ‘Mile High II Collection’. According to data provided by ComicLink this copy was obtained by a collector who helped organize and sort the famous Mile High collection of Chuck Rozanski. It was deemed an ‘exceptional copy’. All these factors, of course, contributed to the very high, outlier, final price of that sale.